addicted child

Gaming disorder

In 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) included gaming disorder on the list of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems ICD-11. Gaming disorder is in the group of addictive behavior disorders, which includes, among others, addiction to alcohol, drugs, gambling or shopping and has the code: 6C51.

According to WHO, we are dealing with computer and video games addiction when we observe constant and repetitive behaviors for at least 12 months:
1.    the player loses control of the game (he plays too often, too long, has a problem to stop playing)
2.    playing games becomes more important than other life activities and interests
3.    the player continues to play despite noticing negative consequences affecting his family life, health, education, work and other important aspects of life.
Playing games – statistics
A survey of children and parents conducted on the request of UKE (at the turn of October and November 2019), shows that 75.6% of children aged 7-15 years play computer games. This percentage is higher among boys than among girls (84.7% against 65.7%).
To play games children most often use smartphones (71.2%), but also laptops and notebooks (59.3%). A desktop computer, a tablet or a console are definitely less popular.
Children declare that usually they spend about 30 minutes up to 2 hours every day (42.9%). Every third child plays only on selected days, and every tenth child plays every day from 2 to 3 hours. A small percentage of minors spend more than 3 hours per day playing games.
It is worth noting that as a child is getting older, the time spent playing games is increasing.
Children prefer different types of games. Most of them, i.e. every four child, chooses adventure games. Then they choose sports, strategy or action games. In addition, every tenth child chooses educational and logical games. Role play games and card games are least popular. It is also worth noting that girls are slightly more likely to play adventure, logic and educational games, while boys definitely more often choose strategy, action and sports games.
Impact of excessive playing on health
The computer games have as many supporters as opponents. On the one hand the games can have a positive role in child’s development, shaping the skill of independent thinking or appropriate social behavior. On the other hand they can lead to less contact with the family, neglect of education, eating disorders and the lack of sleep hygiene, as well as to the behavioral addiction mentioned earlier.

Often children and teenagers play games at night in secret from their parents. An abnormal circadian rhythm leads to melatonin deficiency, which may result in sleep disturbances, and often also in deterioration in health due to decreased immunity.
In the doctors’ opinion the lack of sleep together with playing computer games for hours also cause excessive secretion of a stress hormone, i.e. cortisol. The cortisol is responsible for carbohydrate and fat metabolism, energy production from amino acids, fat distribution and regulation of blood sugar levels. Both chronic deficiency and excess cortisol can cause serious health problems.
Children and teenagers from families struggling with problems, such as lack of acceptance and bad relations with parents, divorce, serious illness or death of one of the parents, are more susceptible to addiction to the games. Children escaping into the virtual world, have the opportunity to experience control of the situation, they can choose their magical powers, and also seemingly relieve the aggression during the fight or killing fictional characters.
The gaming disorder can be diagnosed by a doctor specializing in addiction therapies. This disorder is treated in addiction centers, and the therapy usually lasts about 12 weeks.
Games suitable to the age of a child
Good educational games suitable to the age of a child support cognitive, emotional and social development. They favorably affect mental processes, concentration of attention and perceptiveness. Games that are inappropriate for a child, e.g. containing violence and aggression, may in turn lead to increased negative behavior and hostility towards others. Therefore, it is important that parents and guardians consciously buy or choose computer games for their children.
Do you know what the PEGI classification means?
Pan European Game Information, PEGI – European computer game rating system. Created by Interactive Software Federation of Europe (ISFE) in April 2003, currently used in 32 countries. As of September 2009, PEGI markings are the only officially valid game markings.
The entrepreneurs are not required to send games for verification by the Committee operating at PEGI. But many leading producers send all the games they produce for evaluation.
PEGI classification is dived into two parts. In the first one, the minimum age is chosen, indicating for whom, in terms of age, the game should be available. The second part is connected to the key elements shaping the child's psyche and concerns e.g. violence, discrimination or erotic materials.

The signs used on games

Oznaczenia stosowane na grach:



Appropriate for ages rated 3+

The content of the games marked in this way is considered suitable for all ages. A certain amount of violence is allowed in a comic context (like "Tom and Jerry"). The characters should be a figment of fantasy. Games should not contain sounds or images that may scare a child. There should be no vulgarity, scenes containing nudity or references to sex life.

Appropriate for ages rated 7+

Games are similar to games from the group aged 3+, but contain sounds or scenes that could potentially frighten the youngest. In these games scenes involving partial nudity, but never relating to sex life, are allowed.

Appropriate for ages rated 12+

Computer games for this age category show violence against fantasy or human-looking characters. There may be references to sex life, but they must be very gentle. Just like the vulgarities appearing in the game.

These types of games may include gambling, which is actually played in casinos or gambling points.


Appropriate for ages rated 16+

This symbol is given if the violence or sexual act look like what they really are. Games for this age group may contain sharper vulgarity, and may also include content on smoking, drinking alcohol or using drugs. In addition, they may contain content about games of chance.

Appropriate for ages rated 18+

This symbol indicates games for adults. They can include gross violence, including realistic killing. This category also includes games where the characters use drugs and consume other dangerous substances. Realistic scenes and behaviors related to sex life also appear in these games.



Content descriptor


Corresponding age ratings


The game contains depictions of violence.



The game contains nudity or sexual behavior or references to sexual behavior.



The game shows cases of discrimination or contains material encouraging the minors to discrimination. 



The game refers to or depicts the use of illegal drugs, alcohol, or tobacco.




The game may contain pictures or sounds that may be frightening or scary to young children. 


Bad language

The game contains bad language.



The game contains elements that encourage or teach gambling.



The game may contain online interactions.



Where to look for suport?
If you suspect that your child may be addicted to games and you do not know what to do, you can get free anonymous help from specialists at 800 100 100 or by email on the Parents and Teachers' Phone on Child Safety. It is a contact point for parents who need support, information and psychological help for children who have problems such as: aggression and violence at school, cyberbullying and threats related to new technologies, sexual abuse, contact with psychoactive substances, depression and depressed mood, suicidal thoughts or eating disorders.